I remember seeing these words for the first time when I rode the Tube in London. The signs warned of the dangerous open space between the subway car and the tracks below. If you did not pay attention to the gap, severe injury could result. So it is with the local church. If we do not pay attention to the reality of gaps between generations, as well as the gaps between those in different seasons of life, we run the risk of serious damage to the health of the Body, both for today and the future. I was reminded of this today as I read Titus.
This little Pastoral Epistle instructs a young pastor how to “set things in order” (1:5) for the welfare of the local church. It is strong on relationships, especially as seen in chapter 2.
Paul instructs Titus to address the specific needs of the various age groups in the church because each season of life faces unique challenges. But Paul does not instruct the local church in Crete to have age-graded groups, thus segregating church members according to where they are in life. Rather, Paul so meshes these varied generations that you get the idea that he expects there to be cross-generational connections. In other words, he implies that they should be mindful of the gaps and then do what is required to practically close the gaps. I am encouraged that BBC has seen some progress in this area, yet there is still work to be done. Before addressing what I see as an existing need in this area, let me digress for a moment.
Over the past decade or so there has been a movement in the church at large called Family Integrated Church (FIC). The emphasis is upon desegregating the church when it comes to traditional age-graded ministry. Such churches do not have age-based Sunday schools or youth, young adult or senior saints ministries and neither do most have a crèche. (When you listen to an audio sermon recorded in these churches you will likely hear crying children in the background!) The idea is that, based on passages like Titus 2, the local church should worship and learn and minister as a unit. They strive to make sure that there are no gaps to mind. I appreciate this approach, and there is much to commend it. It is healthy for a local church to view itself as a community of believers striving together for the gospel (Philippians 1:27). The societally accepted idea of generation gaps should be closed by believers of all ages as we partner together in and for the gospel. Those who are committed to FIC are serious about such unity, as we all should be. Though I do not believe that their methodology is mandated by Scripture, nevertheless their motive is clearly the Scriptural norm. Unfortunately, many churches lose sight of this quest. BBC itself needs some improvement here.
Our Young Guns, and its counterpart among the young women, as well as Mingles, are examples of such a commitment to mind in order to close the gap. Just as Paul exhorts and implies in Titus 2, these ministries are built on the premise that the older generation should connect with the younger generation to prepare them for a life lived to the glory of God. We are witnessing much healthy fruit from such intergenerational ministry, and this should excite and motivate us for more.
But as I view the relational landscape of BBC, there appears to be an area where perhaps more intentional efforts are needed. It seems to me that we need to mind the gap between our Young Adults and those who are older. And included in this is the often painful gap between those who are single and those who are married.
It is all too true that being a single young adult (twenty-something and even early thirty-something) in a local church can often be a lonely place. But merely acknowledging this and then thoughtlessly acquiescing to this reality is certainly not acceptable. Rather, with Scripture as our authority, we must practically do something to minimise this disconnect. We must lovingly and thoughtfully mind the gap.
It is interesting that, after speaking of the four age groups in the church (older men, vv. 1–2; older women, v. 3; younger women, vv. 4–5; and younger men, vv. 6–8), and after addressing the expected behaviour of bondservants (vv. 9–10), Paul gives the reminder that “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all [kinds of] men”—that is, the kinds of people identified by the various generations just named. And accompanying this salvation is the same goal for each; that we will live out the glory of what it means to be “His own special people, zealous for good works” (vv. 11–14). In other words, everyone in the Body of Christ is a valuable member and we are to be concerned about the full-orbed spiritual development of every member of the local church. For this to be fulfilled we must mind the gaps. We must be careful, thoughtful and practical to ensure that no one falls into the gaps.
Those who are married are to be mindful and heart-concerned for those who are not married. We who are married, and especially if we are married with children, need to guard against seeking relational connections only with those who live in the same frame of reference. Granted, it is natural to gravitate towards those who share our life experiences. Nevertheless, we need to remember that, as Christians, we are indwelt by the Spirit of God. Therefore we are no longer merely “natural.” We are born again to live differently. And since we are born again into the family of God, our relationships transcend the merely natural bonds of social constructs. What I am arguing in this article is that we must be deliberate in reaching out to the single young adults rather than segregating them by our behaviour of non-inclusion.
For instance, many of these young adults attend weddings and baby showers. Do those who are married and those who are mothers reach out to them in return? Do you seek to identify with what they are facing in this season of their life? And what of us men who are older, particularly those of us who are married and who are fathers? Are we intentional in reaching out to young and single adult men? Do we include them in our social functions? Do we take the time to speak with them about what is happening in their lives? I think you get the point.
We are called to be a “special people,” and that includes (but is not limited to) how we view those of another generation. If we do not mind the gap, then pretty soon we will not mind the gap at all—and those in the gap will experience injury as they fall away relationally from the Body onto the lonely tracks of disconnectedness.
So let’s do something about it—now. Think of someone in the church right now who is in this gap and determine that you will practically reach out to them. Show interest in their life. Talk to them about what they are experiencing. Pray with them as the church gathers each Sunday evening. Have them over for a meal. Seek them out to greet them as the church gathers. There are many ways that we serve one another. For God’s sake, and for the church’s sake composed of all of our brothers and sisters, may we all mind the gap and then do something constructive about it.